|By C. Dianne Zweig
There Is A Love That Will Live On Forever;
There Is A Tie That Nothing Can Sever;
There Is High Praise To Be Sung To No Other;
There Is A Song In My Heart For You, Mother
Many collectors today are attracted to the colorful inspirational and sentimental poems referred to as “motto” prints or “picture poems.” These beautifully lithographed small art prints can be considered not only works of art but perhaps “mini works of the heart “ as they combine the emotional expressions of the poet with the creativity of the illustrator. Mother was a favorite subject for these works.
Historians tell us that the custom of gift giving and sending greetings goes back to ancient times . The Greeks worshipped , Rhea, the mother of the gods and conducted rituals to celebrate mothers and motherhood. In the 17th century England, servants would be given a day off (Mothering Day) to bring a “mothering cake” and other gifts to their mothers. Mothering Day is the predecessor to our modern Mother’s Day, a special day when kind sentiments and tokens of appreciation are offered.
While some folks jest that Mother’s Day motto poems are overly sweet and even perhaps a bit corny for their personal tastes, there are many collectors who view these collectibles quite differently. As interest in Art Nouveau and Art Deco style is on the rise, so is the interest in these beautifully illustrated poems.
Motto sayings were printed by machine, mass produced and usually framed under glass allowing them to stay preserved for future generations. They grew in popularity in the late 1800s as publishers discovered better color and lithography printing processes .
Louis Prang, a German immigrant and gifted graphic arts craftsman brought his lithography skills to America in the mid 1800s and revolutionized the greetings card and motto print industry. In fact, Prang who settled near Boston, is considered the originator of the mass market Christmas holiday card line in America and the “father” of greetings in general.
Modernization of printing techniques carried over to the motto industry. Being able to reproduce paintings, illustrations and photographic images with careful color consideration was an important contribution to the publishing industry. Now reprints of quality work could be offered to the average person at affordable prices.
The 5 & 10 store was a favorite place to buy these motto sayings. Publishers in association with a variety of frame companies produced not only sentimental sayings but they could also be used as wall décor.
When hunting for these treasured poems be aware of the types of frames you might find. The older motto prints (1920s-30s) generally have beautiful ornate frames either painted with gilded embellishments or made with gesso over wood which allow for a more decorative and detailed border. Later “greetings” (1940s-50s) are usually found in very simple and plain wooden frames . Motto sayings of the postwar years are also less elaborate than the detailed variety of the 1920s-30s.
Some of the most popular prints that collectors seek today were made by Buzza, a Minneapolis gift greeting company established in 1907 by George Buzza. Originally created as a company which sold college advertising poster, Buzza began selling greeting cards and sales reached in the millions before Buzza merged with the Charles S. Clark Co. of New York City in 1928. George Buzza sold his share of the company in 1929 and retired to California. The Buzza company remained in business until 1942.
Buzza, created many different motto verses about mothers and homes as well as inspirational themes about friendship, joy, sorrow and love. Other popular topics were religion and patriotic sentiments. Many collectors look for Buzza prints with their original backing paper intact and the characteristic Buzza metal loop hanger with the company name.
As with all paper collectibles, condition is everything. Look for water stains, fading, discoloration, replaced frames or backings. While some collectors are only interested in the print itself, many buyers want the print, frame and paper backing and hanger in original form. Also a word of caution. — it is easy to reproduce “sayings” these days, all you need is a color printer, so be sure you are buying authentic “motto prints” from the era stated.
While there are plenty of Buzza picture poems around from the early 1900s, some subjects are easier to find than others. Themes about mothers or religion are widely available. Expect to pay $18 -48 or higher depending on design, size, rarity and condition. Geography also influences demand on particular subjects. Religious themes sell better in some areas and not in others.
Elaine Maloney, owner of The Plantsville General Store Antique Center in Plantsville, Conn, said she often gets requests for motto prints with Art Nouveau motifs. Maloney characterizes these prints as having designs which “flow” and are organic. Typical designs are very colorful and include vines, flowers, leaves, insects, birds, and feminine images.
Deco designs are also sought after by collectors according to Wanda Husick, owner of www.decodog.com , an online source for ephemera. These prints incorporate geometrics, linear designs and abstract patterns.
Other companies besides Buzza published sentimental sayings including P.F. Volland, Reliance, Cincinnati Art Publishers, Art Publishing Co., Buckbee Brehm Co., and Gibson.
Portrait motto prints of mothers and children signed “MARYGOLD ” or “Mary Gold” have intrigued buyers and sell well. The identity of Mary Gold is a mystery and has been the topic of many online forums. Some believe she was an English artist of the 1920s or 30s and used different forms of the name MARYGOLD. Perhaps the artist has offered a clue by using the same name as early Christians who planted marigold plants around the statue of Mary and called these plants “Mary’s Gold”.
Edgar Guest, known as “The People’s Poet” charmed readers with his books on “sayings” and authored many motto poems. Fishing images with his poems are harder to find and extremely popular says Wanda Husick who sells these prints quickly whenever she acquires one for her online shop.
C. Dianne Zweig is a kitschy kitchen collector and the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s (Collectorbooks.com). Her second book, Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes also by Collectorbooks.com. will be released this fall. For further information or comments write to her at Dianne@CDianneZweig.com